I love Kyoto because of its ancient kingdom, the evidence of its royal history found in a superbly preserved castle, and its many shrines and pavilions project a time-standing-still atmosphere of protected beauty. This city of the Geisha, the centuries old tradition of the masked and kimono -clad courtesan, is imbued with a sense of sensuality and secrecy. What happens behind the tea house door, stays behind the door, but what happens is the stuff of dreams.
Only one other city in the world compares to such an ambience. Venice, of course, my dream, with its heritage of carnival masks, courtesans and royal antiquity. So you can imagine how thrilled I was to discover in Kyoto the real Venetian deal. At Lsil Lsil, a rather strange but musically sounding Moorish word of Turkish origin (say Lshl Lshl together real fast), owner Akira Dobashi and his wife Ayako, have established a Venetian sized Osteria with a menu and wine list that would make Harry’s Bar jealous. In fact, the tagliolini alla seppie had to be probably as good as if not better than that found at the casa di Cipriani. Everything was there: The tangy yet salty flavor of the squid ink, the al dente pasta, the tender chunks of the seppie, the thickness of the salsa yet the softness allowing you to slurp without gulping. I asked Akira what wine he had from the Veneto. Among the many special wines he showed, he took out a 1995 Masi. The decanting opened the bouquet and the ripe fruit and sugar seemed as fresh as yesterday, despite the 20 plus years in the making. With such a wine, I had to sample more from the menu.
Among the many temptations, I had to choose yet another pasta. This time, fresh pappardelle with a sugo d’anatra. Never have I tasted such a deep and flavorful sauce. The secret, says Ayako, is adding some clove. Clever, indeed. The duck was tenderly cooked and the pasta had none of the flabbiness sometimes found in pappardelle. It was a joy to eat with every mouthful, and the locals seemed amused and pleased by my vocal joy. In fact, this restaurant came to me via, naturally, a musicians’s recommendation. Thank you Kio Seiler! Many Italian musicians, when performing in Kyoto, have made the pilgrimage to this small spot. And once they ate this particular dish, as well as the rest of the menu, they have literally fallen over crying with joy. So, I am sure my reaction was actually to be expected. What was not expected was how good and authentic Ayako’s cooking is. Brava!
But I was still not done. Japan may be mostly about fish, but it is also a land of beef, and the Texan in me had to have the famous Wagyu sirloin. This is not a typical filetto di manzo This steak is like butter, melting, marbled, and mellifluous in the mouth. It seemed too quick. Yet each bit was a masterpiece of meat.
Not to be outdone by anything on the menu, Akira offered a classic tiramisu, homemade, with the perfect balance of light and dark.
I made many friends that night at Lsil Lsil. But most of all I made a memory never to be forgotten. Like riding the waves in a gondola, Lsil Lsil took me on an autenticoitaliano journey and made me feel like coming home again. http://lshlshl.com 2nd Fyacho Bldg Lv. 1 225 Owari-cho Nijyo- sagaru Fyacho-dori Nakagyo-ku-, KYOTO Tel: 075-252-2587